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Tony tires of disappointing his family, himself

Sep 2, 2020

Tony’s parents came from Mexico before he was born, and he was born and raised in Santa Maria. “I’ve lived here my whole life,” he said. “I’m the oldest, and have three younger sisters. I had a good childhood, and had everything I wanted. My parents treated me well and were both Christians, so I went to church when I was younger.”

When Tony went to high school, he started smoking marijuana. In between his sophomore and junior years, he moved on to methamphetamine. “Ever since then, everything has been bad,” Tony said. “I ended up dropping out of school because of drugs. Everything changed.”

Halfway through his junior year of high school, Tony stopped going to school. “For a year after I dropped out, I was doing the same things—going out in the streets with my friends, having a good time,” he said. “I wasn’t working, I was doing drugs. But then I started doing good again.”

Tony quit the drugs and got a job. He saved money and bought a car. “I had everything I wanted,” he said. “But I ended up talking to my old friends and doing the same thing. Everything went bad again. I started buying meth. I started getting in trouble with the law, and was arrested. “I lost my job, I lost my car—I lost everything I had worked for. I started using even heavier.”

Tony couldn’t hold down a job and would bounce from post to post picking or planting in the strawberry fields. “I’d get fired, or just never go back, and just get another job doing something else,” he said. Another arrest led to two months in jail. “When I got out, I was supposed to do these programs,” he said. “I never did them. I’d end up leaving because I was high or just because I didn’t want to go. I was supposed to do three different programs and I didn’t go to any of them, so I was locked up again.”

Tony was court-ordered to the Mission in April, and was there for a month before getting kicked out for using again. “The temptation got me,” said Tony somberly. When it was announced the whole house was being tested the next day, Tony confessed, and was exited from the program. “(Program Manager) Chris told me to call within a week. I didn’t come back for two months.

“I started using a bit, but I was getting tired of it. I was tired of seeing my family so sad about what I was doing. I was tired of disappointing them. The first time I came here, they thought I was actually willing to change, so it hurt when I left. It hurt me too. I thought I was ready. Chris messaged me a lot. I started thinking about it more and more. I decided to give it another shot. I didn’t just do it because of probation. I actually want to change now.”

Tony, now 23, has been back at the Mission for three months. “It’s going really good,” he said. “I think everything is so helpful, the staff especially. If it wasn’t for Chris messaging me, I probably would never have come back. I’m so thankful for that, and for everyone here, even the guys in the program.”

Tony especially enjoys the Thursday outreach, where the Mission clients distribute food to those in need in the community. “Sometimes I see my family there,” he said. “They wave at me, and I wave back at them. Seeing them see what I’m doing makes me feel good. They used to see me out on the streets. Now they are seeing me give back.”

Tony is planning on graduating the program and finding a job. “Moving forward, I want to focus on staying on track and never going back to what I was doing,” he said. “My parents are working in fields pretty far away, in Los Alamos, so there is no (cell phone) signal there. I’ve talked to my sister. I just tell her to tell them not to worry about me, that I’m doing good. I wish I could talk to them, but knowing they know I’m OK, that’s good enough for me right now.”

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